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Adapt to your stakeholders - Communication Part 2

The various reasoning styles described in Communication Part 1 can guide you in how to adapt your communication. One crucial aspect is how much information you give about your idea, project or product.

"Less is more" or "more is more"?

The article UX Design across Different Cultures looks at web design across cultures and how to get the best response from visitors to your website.

For example, A/B testing for the travel website and revealed that Dutch visitors (applications-first) responded better to a less information-rich checkout site (left image).

German users (principles-first) made more bookings when shown a more detailed version at checkout (right image).

The article goes on to compare the landing pages for the web browser Mozilla Firefox, for Firefox US (specific reasoning) and Firefox China (holistic reasoning).

  • The US page is shorter, highlighting only 1 important feature of the browser: better privacy protection.

  • The Chinese page is longer, showcasing multiple browser features – privacy protection, faster browsing speed and easy customisation.

Clicking through the menu pages gives users access to similar browser information on both the China and US website.

However, to make a strong first impression when visitors first arrive on the website’s landing page, “less is more” is true for the US version, while "more is more" for the Chinese version.

Get the level of information right

When you are first presenting your idea, project or product, keep things short with applications-first. The missing context may only become relevant to your audience at a later stage. Remember "less is more".

Spend more time initially on explanations with principles-first and holistic thinkers. Be sure to give plenty of context and information first before giving a recommendation, call-to-action to your customers or a specific action plan for your team. Remember "more is more".

CEOs presenting the new corporate strategy

A few year’s back, I consulted on a German-Japanese joint venture in the manufacturing sector. Senior executives, engineer personnel and public officials from both countries got together over several days to kick off the latest joint project between the two companies.

Both leaders from the German-Japanese JV held keynote speeches to open the event.

Leverage the similarities

Working with both leaders in coordinating their speeches to cater to both audiences, we quickly identified that we could leverage the similarities around a high need for detail and context from both cultures:

  • Give plenty of context and numerous examples of successful cooperation in the past in the opening speeches.

  • Unveil the current JV plans and concrete actions at a later stage during the 3-day programme.

Accommodate the differences

Both speakers chose a slightly different structure to convey the same message.

The German manager's spoke along the following lines:

  • In year 1, a regional state-funded Japanese trade delegation came to our region to promote German-Japanese trade…

  • In year 2, our company made its first visit to our Japanese colleagues, leading to the 1st project between our firms…

  • In year 3, our Japanese friends sent a team of engineers to Germany to join our team for a project X.

  • In year 4, the Japanese town donated a beautiful garden to its twin city here in Germany.

  • In year 5, a team of our engineers joined a team in Japan to work on project Y.

  • In year 6, etc...

  • The wish to collaborate is not just important for our two firms and local regions, but also valued at national level, as seen by the recent meetings between Prime Minister Abe and Chancellor Merkel.

  • We look forward to a fruitful relationship together going forward, and are pleased to welcome our Japanese guests over the next few days.

The Japanese manager's speech had this structure:

  • As can be seen during the recent meeting between Prime Minister Abe and Chancellor Merkel, there is a strong level of cooperation between our two nations.

  • This also applies at a regional level. In year 1, a regional state-funded Japanese trade delegation came here to Germany to promote German-Japanese trade. Similarly, in year 10, a regional state-funded German trade delegation came to us in Japan,…

  • In year 4, our Japanese town donated a garden to its twin city in Germany. In year 8, the German town also gave significant support to our Japanese town.

  • Our companies are also glad to celebrate many years of partnership together: In year 3, we sent a team of engineers to Germany to join their team for project X. Likewise, in year 5, a team of German engineers joined us in Japan on project Y.

  • Etc…

  • We look forward to a fruitful relationship together going forward, and are honoured by the generous hospitality of our German friends over the coming days.

The German executive highlighted the progress of the collaboration over time by treating each year as a separate category or cooperation event (specific reasoning).

The Japanese executive emphasised the harmony of the collaboration starting at a national level, then regional level and finally at a corporate level across time (holistic reasoning).

Know where you're alike and where to adapt

As a multi-cultural leader, if you hope to motivate and engage people around the globe, you may need a multifaceted approach.

Understanding the different cultural elements can help you identify where you're alike, and where you'll need to adapt.

You can then make a deliberate choice around which style will work best in which cultural context - whether you're communicating to your team internally, or engaging with your stakeholders externally.


In Communication Part 3 we look at how McDonald's effectively adapts its brand messages to its customers around the world.


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